The two shamans and the owner of the cattle : alterity, storytelling and shamanism amongst the Angaité of the Paraguayan Chaco
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My thesis examines from an ethnographic account how history has been made, told and interpreted by the Angaité people of the Chaco since the Paraguayan nation-state effectively carried out the colonization of this territory in the 19th century until the present day. The key elements of this account are the Angaité’s notions and practices on alterity, storytelling and shamanism and how they interplay with one another. I explore the notions of alterity and its counterpart similarity in the context of multiple material transactions in which the Angaité engage both among themselves and with outsiders. I also examine the inseparable socio-moral evaluations attached to such transactions. I show how certain transactions such as exchange or commoditisation do not necessarily conflict with good social relations. Nevertheless, the closest relationships – preferably evoked in kinship terms - are constantly constructed by the combination of several practices including sharing, pooling, cohabitation and companionship and the relational morality that underpins them. This relational morality, I argue, is both inscribed and enacted through the telling of Nanek Any’a narratives –“Old news/events”. I analyze some of these narratives in order to show how the Angaité people interpret the consequences of the colonization of the Chaco. For this I provide an intelligible context for the Nanek Any’a that may otherwise appear contradictory or incomprehensible to a non-Angaité listener. The Angaité’s versions of history compared to the official accounts challenge the simplistic of the Angaité as “acculturated” and a homogenous indigenous people and situate them as main actors of their own lives. Rather than the Angaité being the victims of history the Nanek Any’a emphasize that it was the mistakes and failing of their ancestors in their original encounter with the Paraguayans that resulted in an unbalanced relationship with the latter in socio-economic terms. In addition to this, I describe in the light of the historical processes undergone in the lives of the Angaité, how the shamanic discourses and capacities and Angaité cosmology have changed. I explore how they have constantly incorporated external elements, and thus such shamanic elements pervades contemporary areas of life and interactions that include not only the paradigmatic indigenous shaman, but unusual figures such as pastors, powerful outsiders and leaders.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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